21 May 2008

The Thought That Discounts

Presents. Who doesn’t love a present? Big or small, posh or cheap, getting a gift is always a treat. No matter what it is — whether it’s wrapped in a bow or out of the box — it’s the thought behind the gift that counts. Right? But what thought really goes into something that is a re-gift? Outside of, “Hey, I don’t have to cough up any dough on this one!”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all about the budget. I don’t rate what I receive by its price tag. Cheap and cheerful is fine by me. When I was living off of Starbucks, a gift card from the ‘Bucks more welcomed than a vacation in the Bahamas. You want to go a little more upscale? A bottle of Veuve is dear enough (and I’d be happier still if you got it on sale at Cost Plus). Need to go super frugal? iTunes would be nice. Even just for three or four songs would please me to know end. I’m also thrifty with my musical selections and usually only buy two at a time.

I’ve been told that I come off as a difficult person to buy for. To a point, that may be true. I only wear one fragrance. Not into bath products. No longer drink coffee. Try not to eat too much sugar. Only wear yellow gold. I like to keep my scented candles down to Diptyque and I’ve run out of room for picture frames. See, I have a small place. And, having lived here and long as I have, it’s pretty packed. There’s not a whole lot of room available for things impractical. But, there’s always room for friends. And I’m happy to take presence over presents. Time together spent over dinner, on a walk on the beach or a happy hour; those are some of my favorite gifts. And I’d much rather have something that simple than something insincere.

I’ll say it right here and right now: I hate being re-gifted. I find it insulting. And while I might repurpose a bottle of wine given to me when I run out of time and can’t stop at a shop on my way to a dinner party, I would never slap a bow on it and go on about how I wanted to find just the right bottle for the occasion as I handed it to the hostess.

There are several different stances on the etiquette of re-gifting. Some say what the recipient doesn’t know won’t hurt them. Others suggest coming clean and let them know the gift was a gift you thought they’d enjoy, and then add a little something more to it. But I agree with those who say it’s always tacky to re-give. If you have something you think a friend might like, you should only offer it to them as what it is — something you were given and thought they might enjoy — and that it’s never okay to present it as a present.

Living in a town full of swag, we all get loads of crap that we don’t really want, need or use. So, it’s not surprising that re-gifting is rampant. But it may surprise the re-gifter to know that I can always tell that it came from a swag bag rather than a boutique. I’m sure you can, too.

One hint is a banged up box. Things from stores usually appear fresh. Wrinkled tissue is another giveaway. That the item is out of season and/or style is yet another clue. And the fact that it doesn’t come with a gift receipt is usually the final blow. A re-gift isn’t as clever an offering as one might think. And it’s always a saddening shock when someone you know well attempts to pass one off...repeatedly.

I’m not one who expects presents or assumes tokens will be bestowed. I’m always pleased when someone thinks of me, no matter what the trinket may be. But, there comes a point when a re-gift is more of an affront than no gift. How does one construct a thank-you note for such a repurposed bequest? Because, if your preference is to give something that cost you nothing, I’d much rather go without. It’s not that I feel there must be a monetary exchange in regards to what’s being given; I just prefer a thought that counts.

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